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Sorry to keep getting these types of articles up late, but sometimes you need time to just let everything simmer about how amazing and chaotic a year like 2022 was in animation. Lots of great stuff, but also stuff that missed the mark. The talented crews and artists made some of the best animated films for Netflix, while the streaming service also had some of the most panned animated films of 2022. Only in this chaotic world of the animation industry can this happen. As usual, these will be the nine animated films I liked the least during this year, and it’s always a shame that I can’t like everything. No one wants to criticize the people who work in a chaotic industry that needs all the love and support they can get right now. Despite this list and ranking, and however I feel about these films, I’m always going to be rooting for everyone to succeed. Now then, let’s get started.
9. Night at the Museum: Kahmunra’s Revenge
Maybe it would have been better if I had more attachment to the franchise, but this film felt like it was made to be a pilot for an animated TV series. The script does have a few moments where the comedy hits and the 2D animation is better than what I was expecting. Still, the story and themes feel undercooked and needlessly complicated with the introduction of an art museum and how the portraits can be portals to the past. It doesn’t help either that a good chunk of the cast is there for nostalgia and fans, and then they don’t do anything. Still, if it’s here, then that means I still enjoyed it, but their non-Pixar-released-to-Disney Plus films have not been great.
8. Ryoma: The Prince of Tennis
The biggest sin that a sports film can commit is to not be about the sport itself. Instead of being based on the main series, this film is based on the stageplays. This means a much heavier focus on big grand musical moments and very little focus on story cohesion and characters. You think the plot of our lead getting sent back in time to see his dad would be interesting, but it’s not. You keep watching to see how absurd this film gets with rap battles and duets while playing one of the few scant games of tennis that you do see in the film. The CGI is also really ugly. It looks like a higher-end PlayStation 2 cinematic cutscene at points, and it’s a definite downgrade compared to the other CGI films from Japan that show how far they have come with films like The First Slam Dunk. The characters are forgettable, and once you are over the absurd things that ignite the musical sequences, the film is boring. Even when our lead meets and faces off with his dad, it’s too little too late. For a franchise that already doesn’t have a huge foothold in the US market, the fact we got this is wild. It was probably brought over when they were dubbing the second Prince of Tennis series, but it’s going to be a bad time if you make this your first piece of media to intake from the franchise.
7. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
While Genndy Tartakovsky was still attached to the writing of this film, it feels like it also had the same energy as a DTV Disney film from back in the day. It had a creative hook of Andy Samberg’s character turning into a monster, and Drac and his friends turning human, but it doesn’t do much with the premise that feels like they weren’t given enough time to flesh out the story. It was part regressive of the character growth, lacked the same silly humor that was mastered in the third film, and once again, they bring a lot of your favorite characters back only for them to do very little. Even if the very little they do was decent, it just feels like a film that was running on fumes, and hopefully, the talented group of animators at Sony Pictures Animation hit it out of the park in the future, which seeing their lineup, probably will.
6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules
Yeah, the promise of Diary of a Wimpy Kid animation adaptations has been a real disappointment so far. This one looks slightly better and has a better overall story, but a lot of these characters are not fun to be around. I still wish they had more time or a budget to make this film more visually interesting than it is, and I’m glad that they tried to put more of an emphasis on the family feeling more connected with one another. Still, Disney needs to give these people more time to craft an excellent animated adaptation of the books with the visual flair that they deserve.
5. Riverdance: The Animated Adventure
For a film based on the dance sensation, you would think there would be a bit more to it than dancing elk. To be fair, it does try to with trying to tie the story around a young boy dealing with the grief of losing his relative, but the animation and creativity on display don’t match the whimsy, and the more fantastical aspects of it don’t feel all that whimsical The dance sequences are also way more robotic due to either time or budgeting making the iconic dancing look more stiff and lifeless than it should be. Just a real forgettable experience and that’s a shame. In a world where we have films like The LEGO Movie and silly films like Seal Team, a Riverdance film is not that out there, but it just feels like they didn’t go far enough with their premise and production.
4. The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild
No matter how good this film could have been, it was always going to have the stink of Disney’s corporate greed of letting this film get made by a third-party studio, and banked on the love for the franchise and the return of Simon Pegg as Buck Wild. Sadly, this is essentially a direct-to-video plot with no other returning cast members and a huge downgrade to the CG animation from the theatrical films. It became less of a high-flying adventure of Buck saving the day, and more of a sad state of things as Disney shut down Blue Sky Studios and then made a film from one of their IPs that resulted in a cheap experience.
3. Pinocchio: Based on a True Story
Honestly, these next three films could tie for the worst. People elevated this film thinking it was going to be some gonzo disaster that was fueled by the meme of Pauly Shore’s take on Pinocchio, but when you take out the clips of Shore’s performance, the film is absurdly boring, badly animated, and will leave your mind once the film ends its sluggish finale. It banks on the meme factor and ends up with a frustratingly mediocre experience. Oh, and how is this fantastical story a “true story”? Seriously, there is a reason why this came and went as it did after it got its 15 seconds of fame.
2. The Soccer Football Movie
I’m still baffled by how this film came to be. There were no news announcements, no real trailers, the audiences only getting clips of this film a few days before it was released, and no production history that you could find beforehand. It just arrived on Netflix with no real mention of it from the company itself. Was this half-baked fever dream supposed to have originally come out during the World Cup? For whom was this made? Who was the target demographic? Why did this film need to get made? Even the creator of Angry Beavers who was the director of this, Tom Kenny, and Weird Al couldn’t save this heap from just feeling like a movie put together by an ai. Hopefully, the two soccer players who star in the film got to have a good time, but this is yet again, another film that just came and went with no real fanfare or reason to exist.
Like I said above, The Soccer Football Movie, Pinocchio: Based on a True Story, and Marmaduke are tied for my least favorite animated films of the year. Something about Marmaduke filled me with dread, due to how it had a trailer that failed to impress, and when I was finally able to watch the film, I had a rough time sitting through it. You can tell this was trying to do more than what it possibly could on a small budget, but what it does try to do falls flat on its face with annoying characters, ugly designs, gags that fall flat, a weak story that doesn’t grab you at all, and some of the worst animation of 2022. Who knows what the animation production was for this film since it was supposed to come out before the pandemic happened, but it feels like they just made a first run-through of what the film will look like, and then couldn’t do a pass with adding better textures or anything like that. Better animation wouldn’t have helped a garbage story, but it would have at least made it a little bit more tolerable. A lot can happen in the production of animated features and this may have had a bad production, but it was probably a bad idea in the first place to make a film based on an IP that no one outside of rights holders care about. It was one of the few films I watched in 2022 that made me feel like I wasted my time, and the fact Netflix could put this out in the same year as The Sea Beast and Pinocchio is shocking.